We have been confronted again in America by the unnecessary loss of life. While massive protests and civil unrest continue across the country, these events have challenged us to reflect and wonder: what can EERI do in a meaningful and thoughtful way to be a catalyst for racial equity in our sphere of influence?
While we don’t have all the answers and there’s still so much we have to learn, we want to send a strong message to our African American members: you have our compassion, you have our support, and we value you. Your voices and perspectives are essential to the Institute and our work.
Since its founding, EERI has sought to enhance safety and protect the lives of individuals and communities around the world, by minimizing their risk and growing their resilience. Violent, unprovoked killings of unarmed citizens by people in power clearly jeopardizes community safety and is antithetical to EERI’s values. EERI condemn these acts of violence that harm and disempower citizens, and increase the vulnerability of communities.
Perhaps more difficult to identify and reconcile are the many subtle societal biases that reinforce racist practices and cause grave harm to communities of color and other marginalized groups, making them more vulnerable to disaster impacts and less likely to flourish in society. For EERI, the outcome of this systemic racism and bias manifests in the limited racial and cultural diversity of professionals and experts in the technical fields and disciplines we hold essential to EERI’s mission of earthquake risk reduction.
EERI has long derived strength from our diversity — our activities have long valued geographic and disciplinary diversity and inclusivity. In recent years, we have expanded and embraced gender and age diversity in our leadership, as we now regularly have strong female and early career leaders on the Board, in our committees, and within our chapters. This moment has reminded us that we can not be complacent with this progress. It challenges us to look critically at how we, as an organization and membership, can yield similar gains in racial diversity that make Black professionals and other underrepresented groups feel welcome, engaged, and appreciated, and grow their participation in our fields of work. We have taken some small steps recently through our diversity event at the National Earthquake Conference in March, Board nominating committee criteria that value racial diversity, and a new meeting code of ethics focused on ensuring that all EERI members feel safe and welcome at our events; but, there is clearly more that we can and must do.
To this aim, EERI has committed to the Statement on Systemic Racism and Disasters from the North American Alliance of Hazards and Disaster Research Institutes. Among several other commitments, it clearly states that we will not tolerate racism, discrimination, harassment, or bias in our Institute or activities, and promises to act fairly, swiftly, and with moral courage in the face of any such incidents. It also pushes us to identify and diminish existing inequalities in our own practices and policies.
Additionally, the Board is preparing for a strategic planning activity this summer to develop a new 3-5 year plan for the Institute and reflect on our foundational statements. In this planning process, we will be carefully considering how EERI can enhance our diversity and support for members of color through our policies, programs, and activities.
We acknowledge that doing this work will be a journey. We’re committed to educating ourselves and we invite your suggestions on how EERI can become a more welcoming, safe, and empowering community and organization.
Laurie A. Johnson
EERI Executive Director